I had never as yet made the attempt to svithe vocally


I'm reading a fascinating article right now that I may well svithe again, if it weighs as heavily on my mind next week as it has been this weekend. But it's so late now, I'm just stealing one quote, which originated here.
    We are so verbal, especially in the Protestant tradition, that it's hard for us not to imagine prayer either as monologue, in which I tell God things and God listens, or as a conversation in which I tell God things and God answers back. But from what I understand out of the ancient monastic materials I work on, prayer is really an entire relationship, and the verbal part is only one element. A lot of what we learn when we pray is to be quiet. We need to stop thinking that a relationship is constituted only by language. The closer we get to other people, and the better our friendships are, the more silence these relationships contain. The people we talk to all the time are probably the people we don't know.terribly well and whom we don't trust. The issue is not so much "Does God talk back and if so how?" but whether we can learn just to be in God's presence.

She has a pretty good point. Prayer is more than address-thank-pray-close, or can be. How do we arrive at prayers that move beyond the limitations of our human vocabularies?


last week's svithe


  1. I like to ponder on the "Always a Prayer in our Heart" thing. To me its an acknowledgment that HE is with me and my thoughts, and of course I am not always conscioulsy aware but I work a reminding myself to be aware, to remember and keep those things with me all day long and after I sleep. The things that transcend address, thanks etc. I suppose in a way an open Prayer I keep going. I am sure I am better off when I do it, than when I forget.

  2. I like the open Prayer idea, David. Throughout my days I often find myself thinking in God's direction, as it were, even when I don't have anything to thank him for or to ask for. I just find myself trying to be nearer him, to be with him when I feel myself slipping away. Sure, vocalized prayer is powerful and has its place, but more and more I think prayer is a way of living that transcends verbalization, that is fused with my very thoughts and dreams.

  3. This makes very good sense and makes the "pray always" edict much more manageable.

  4. Don't know if you'll remember this line from The Proviso when Giselle says:

    “Meditation is silent, a quest for emptiness. Praying is a conversation. They each serve their purpose.”

  5. *ahem* That was probably no apropos of anything, now that I think on it.

  6. So, I've been absent from blogdom for a long ole time and am just now catching up on stuff, so I apologize for my tardiness here, but I've got stuff to say. And I always feel kinda guilty for posting essay-length comments, but I'm gonna do it any how.

    I agree with some of the ideas in that quote, but I think they're taken to an unfair and rather binary extreme. While it's absolutely true that silences tend to be more comfortable when I'm with people I love, I have a really hard time talking to people I don't know.

    I'm part of a Google group that discusses Mormon living and whatnot, and the topic of prayer came up recently. I had just given a talk in Church on improving personal relationships with God, so I was brimming with ideas. Here's my contribution to that thread, though it's only asymptotically related to this discussion, posted serially because space is limited on comments:

  7. You mentioned the temple and driving in through the woods. My big thing is going for walks: I just wander the streets of Provo and talk to God. I think formality in prayer is important, but I think just having an on-going conversation with God is vital. I think the fact that you're aware that your regimented prayers aren't always awesome is actually a good thing. I think a lot of people fall into habit and find themselves blessing the food when they're going to bed and praying by name for a prophet who died a year and a half ago. I think it's okay to pray out of duty (my morning prayers generally consist of something like, "Well, Father, I'm awake. Kind of. I'll talk to you some more after I shower. Namejesuschristamen"; my evening prayers are very formal--I have certain things I pray for like the leaders of the Church and my pregnant sister--and I mean every word I say, but it is pretty much the same prayer every night). However, the real magic of my relationship with God comes about when I'm walking to work or school or home from wherever I've been or I'm driving somewhere and turn off the radio to say, "Dear Heavenly Father, I've got something on my mind" and just tell him what I'm thinking.

    I read a book once called Fierce Conversations. I read it about a couple of years ago because I was feeling insecure in my dating life. As it turns out, it's a book directed mostly toward business executives, so it wasn't as helpful as I would have liked, but one thing it said has stuck with me. The author hit a sort of tangent and started talking about newly weds. She said that, after the honeymoon ends, a lot of men get a little frustrated because the woman wants to talk about the relationship all the time. "Why's she always wanna talk about the relationship?" he thinks. "We just got married; we're doing fine; let me watch the game!" Then the author said something that really hit me: she said, "The conversation isn't about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship." I've thought about that a lot, and I've found it to be really true: people I can't talk to, I don't really have a relationship with. How well I'm able to carry on a conversation with someone--as well as how often I want to--that's the real measure of how strong a relationship is.

  8. I have a grandma who lives in Idaho. She's my only living grandparent, and every Thanksgiving she catches a ride with me as I drive from Provo to California so she can spend the winter with my parents in California. It's a nine-hour drive and inevitable dominated by silence. I appreciate the woman--she bore my mother who bore me, and I appreciate their combined efforts to make the world such a brighter place--but I really don't have a relationship with her. And the reason I don't is because I grew up, like, 12 hours away from her and grandpa's cattle ranch, and when I went up there every summer, I spent more time playing with their dogs than I did talking to them. So now she's my only living grandparent, and I don't have a relationship with her. Building one probably wouldn't take more than a five-minute phone call every other Sunday and building up from there until I call her every Sunday and then every couple of days and then whenever something is on my mind.

    I'm sure the implications of this rambling tangent are fairly apparent. If you find God in the temple and in the forests, try to spend time there as frequently as possible, but don't give up on inviting him into your bedroom--even when it's messy and even when you're feeling down. The most fundamental assumption you should have about prayer (like Steve said) is that God loves you and wants to hear from you. Don't believe for a second that he's more interested in formality and stilted Elizabethan English than he is in you and your naked heart, but if starting out all of your prayers are pretty stilted, at least you're starting somewhere.

    I hope that helps. Good luck to you, sir. I think this is something that everyone would admit to stuggling with if we were as honest with ourselves as we ought to be. But just as we don't expect infants and toddlers to carry on enlightening conversations, I think God is as equally delighted with our spiritual goo-goo, gah-gah as he is with anything else.

    Much love.

  9. {End Quote}

    That said, I've recently found that a lot of my prayers go something like this:

    "Heavenly Father, I--[five or ten minute silence of nearly-overwhelming gratitude mingled with confusion and a bit of fear]--Thanks for everything. I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

    Words aren't sufficient lately....

    So I think silence is good, but I don't think that words and silence are opposed to each other at all--which is totally counter-intuitive so far as definitions go, but it's what I'm feeling lately.

    And now I'm done. Sorry for the deluge. Probably shoulda just made my own post on my own blog, but oh well.

  10. .

    I agree with keeping it out of the binary. I think you are absolutely right. And I say that while still agreeing with the initial quote as well.

    Which doesn't do much to keep the conversation going, I know.... Guess we don't have a relationship. :(